Scott Limmer

24 minutes

Scott and Oscar talk about the current state of the legal market and various solutions offered by websites and pundits. But all the solutions reflect that this is not the same legal system and marketplace from 10 years ago. Many young lawyers are finding that they are being offered very low salaries and question whether they should take the job – is it the right thing to do?

 

The hosts recommend biting the bullet and taking the job but also discuss that finding a way to generate your own business is still the best safeguard against a volatile marketplace. While the current law school glut is diminishing due to lower law school attendance, the hosts discuss that the effects of less lawyers entering in the marketplace is still years away. Therefore, it is incumbent on folks to do what they have to do to generate business.

 

Even if young lawyers have to take an associate salary that is very low, the hosts recommend taking that position and using it as a springboard to developing your own book of business. Taking that job might make you more open to other arrangements – work for space, for example to learn a new area of law.

 

The focus should not be on the salary at the beginning – it should be on learning an area of law that you can be productive in and develop business. Don’t just take any job, if you are at a low salary that opens you up to many more possibilities so have a plan –

 

  • Think about what kind of law you want to practice
  • Try to find a solo or small firm that does that work that can use your assistance
  • Think about a financial arrangement that you can strike with that firm to get your start in that field of law
  • Develop your own website using what’s best about your authentic self – doing anything else like using stock photos will not lead to business
  • Don’t worry about your pride, no one needs to know how much you are earning, and it can be as steppingstone as its better to be in the game at some level than not at all.
  • Recognize that you may have to try different ways to develop your practice and they may not work right away – be patient


Episode transcript

INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice, two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

OSCAR:                      Hello everybody, this is Oscar.

SCOTT:                      Hi everyone. This is Scott. Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice. We’re going to do something a little different today. I have a couple of things that I’m going to throw at Oscar. He has no idea what we’re going to talk about, just a few things that I’ve been keeping track of in the last few weeks and I thought it would be interesting to talk about.

OSCAR:                      I find I do best when I don’t know what I’m going to be talking about.

SCOTT:                      That’s good. That’s good. I actually do best when I don’t know what I’m talking about also. So I do a lot of reading. I read Above the Law a lot. Sometimes, they are a little fatalistic but I don’t really think they are. A couple of the articles I have been reading this week, one talks about how we’d be better off if 30 law schools closed.

OSCAR:                      Yeah. Can we pick those law schools?

SCOTT:                      They happen to be right. There is an article about what the future of law looks like. Will it go the way where the medical system is going? Are there going to be processes to take care of, lower level type thing, Lemon Law, Landlord-Tenant? That’s certainly possible and then I read the very depressing article that talks about the status of our business. It’s an article that talks about how to negotiate salary with a solo practitioner. An email was sent to the writer, talked about someone who was looking to try to figure out how much compensation she should ask the person who was going to hire her for.

OSCAR:                      So this is a solo that is about their first associate?

SCOTT:                      Well, this is an associate who is trying to figure out how much they should be asking the solo for in salary.

OSCAR:                      Right, turn it from a solo to a small firm.

SCOTT:                      Right, exactly. The advice given to this poor writer and soon to be maybe associate, it’s just so incredibly sad. The sentence that got me was “There’s no socially acceptable minimum salary.”

OSCAR:                      Oh. Beyond the minimum wage, I guess.

SCOTT:                      They are free to be as cheap as they want with little or no consequences. The writer knows small firms that pay shockingly low amounts even to attorneys with few years experience. All these articles, they are saying the same thing. The reason we started this podcast, they are saying that it is not the same business it was.

OSCAR:                      Right.

SCOTT:                      When we started this podcast, I know I was saying it and I guess in some way, I still wanted to believe that maybe, I don’t know, maybe it would go back somehow or maybe I was looking at it the wrong way. Maybe I didn’t have as much information as I should. It’s more likely that.

OSCAR:                      I don’t want to date myself but we need what Huey Lewis used to say, “I want a new drug,” but then maybe perhaps a new market.

SCOTT:                      Yeah.

OSCAR:                      That’s the reason why we did start this podcast is because you’re your own best friend and you’re going to be able to generate your own salary hopefully if you follow some of what we’re talking about to supplement. If you have to take a low salary, it’s a recognition of the market place. I speak to a lot of law schools and I spoke to a law school here in New York whose entry class has plummeted were they used to have 650 new students coming in they are down to like 250. The word is getting out there that law is not the automatic, and then I went out and I spoke to about three other schools after that once I had that information just to follow up and they all reported the exact same thing. The entry classes are plummeting. They are laying off adjuncts. They are laying off non-tenured professors and they are trying to figure out a way to make themselves more attractive to the fewer people that are applying. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing for the lawyers who are already out there but it’s going to be three, four years before we start seeing the glut that was caused by everybody having a law school work its way through the system. I think the whole purpose of this podcast is to try to help people survive this period.

SCOTT:                      Right. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. There’s no doubt.

OSCAR:                      Exactly right and it’s going to be upon you to try to generate business. Now what would you say to that person? I have heard. I have actual anecdotal evidence from the last time we hired a firm, people at our firm, we interviewed a lot of people. We put out an ad and we got hundreds literally of resumes.

SCOTT:                      Really?

OSCAR:                      About 150 resumes.

SCOTT:                      That’s incredible.

OSCAR:                      Some people were getting paid $25,000 a year working for small or solo firms.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      They were told that we pay that base salary and a percentage of anything they brought in past a certain amount and they brought in nothing. They don’t know how to bring them.

SCOTT:                      Right. They don’t know how.

OSCAR:                      Right. So you know, a lot of times people came to us and they were asking like, “Is that salary against commission?” I’m like, “We are not selling shoes. We’re practicing law. That’s the salary you get. “Even if I don’t bring business?” “Yeah, even if you don’t bring in business.” What you talk about and they were telling us these stories that people would say, “Fine. I’m going to pay you a base salary of $25,000 a year, $30,000 a year and if you bring anything over $60,000 in, you will get 10% or 15% as a bonus at the end of the year.” Here you have a person who didn’t learn how to develop business in law school.

SCOTT:                      Who the boss probably isn’t encouraging to go out and join bar associations or go to networking functions.

OSCAR:                      If they are paying you that amount of money, they are not paying you to go do those things.

SCOTT:                      No. They are paying you to sit in the back office and do some work.

OSCAR:                      And grind out the work that they have, exactly. And then, how do you do it? How do you supplement that? But would you tell someone to take that salary?

SCOTT:                      You know, what I would tell them is that it’s easy for me to say but short term does not matter. If the job will give you an opportunity to grow and will give you the opportunity to learn something that you can parlay into something bigger, then great. If the job won’t give you an opportunity to grow, but it will give you some networking opportunities and time to meet people, then take it. You have to be driven. You have to have some sort of plan and figure out where you want to go. In your second year law school, if you are trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life, you might be in a little bit of trouble. You need to know what you’re looking to do. I certainly wouldn’t go to law school not knowing what type of law I would practice.

OSCAR:                      You know you may change when you’re in law school and you may change when you see what those areas are, but you start to have a plan.

SCOTT:                      Right. I don’t mean the specific type of law but you have to have a plan. I want to have a job at big law. I want to work for myself. Some sort of plan and be moving towards that. So whatever job this person’s offered, they need to see where it fits in their overall plan.

OSCAR:                      Right and law schools are wising up now.

SCOTT:                      It seems so but it just seems they are moving a little slow. If I had to take a guess, most of the people that run law schools are probably a little set in their ways and feel things should be done a certain way.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, people are scared to say who will be the first one to do that. I know that my alma mater, New York Law School, has started something that’s pretty smart, which is you can get a degree in two years now. It’s an accelerated program and secondly, I can’t remember which university actually they coordinated with but they will also be offering economics classes and you can get post-graduate degree in economics through the law school as well.

SCOTT:                      Interesting.

OSCAR:                      So again you are changing, you are enhancing yourself a little bit more. You are adding a little something, you are getting more value out of it, but you know, I would tell that person the same thing. I would say, “Yes, take that job. It’s money, number one. No one needs to know how much you make. And try to develop business with using some of the techniques that we used. Once you are willing to take that salary, you might be more open to call in people and say, “I’ll work for space. I’ll work for free.” There are other things you could do if you want to learn a particular area of law that might be intriguing to people and they might say, “You know what? I have an empty office. Let this person come in.”

SCOTT:                      I guess that’s why I say that you should kind of know what you want to do because if you do and you have that plan, then whatever you’re doing, if you are exchanging work for space, as long as you are in with somebody who does what you are looking to learn, who cares what you are making? It doesn’t matter. You are looking towards the future. You can’t worry about your salary. Listen, it’s bad. What’s $25,000 going to do for someone in Long Island in all honesty?

OSCAR:                      The statistics though do show, which is interesting, which is that even those who started at a low salary, people with a law degree by the time they are out of law school 10 years, are earning more than their contemporaries who are not in law even though those folks started with more money at the beginning. Law allows you to catch up a lot quicker. It’s still a great profession. It’s still something that we both look to do but that’s only frankly because it’s paying and it’s a healthy practice. You have to try to continue whatever salary you decide to work at. Don’t ever stop trying to develop your own business.

SCOTT:                      Right. It has to be a part of the plan to move on.

OSCAR:                      And I would suggest to them, if you are looking to work at any kind of relationship of that kind, get specific commitments. What happens to the business I bring in? How much do I have to share with you or can I do this part time? Alright, $25,000 a year but how about 3 days a week, and that I can use the office two days a week for overflow stuff for you and my own practice. Figure out a way to try to work a space for yourself, to try to develop your own business.

SCOTT:                      I agree. You have to figure it out yourself. You have to work it out some way in to get where you want to get, as simple as that. So moving on, I want to tell you a story, Oscar.

OSCAR:                      Okay.

SCOTT:                      So I have a criminal client come in a couple of weeks ago. He sits down and he already has an attorney. He says he doesn’t really like this attorney. I said to him, “What’s his name?” He tells me his name. I didn’t recognize the name. So I Google him as people often want to do and I found his website. I saw a picture of him on his website and I looked at him. I said, “I know that guy,” But I’m telling you the circuits in my brain were crossed. I knew him but I didn’t know.

OSCAR:                      You didn’t recognize his name but you recognized his face?

SCOTT:                      I recognized his face. So it took me a few seconds and I finally figured out where I knew his face from. When I was creating my websites for my practice, I downloaded a lot of stock photos and I looked at this guy and I said, “I know that guy from the stock photo websites.”

OSCAR:                      No kidding.

SCOTT:                      So I asked the gentleman who is sitting in front of me. I said, “Did you see his website?” He goes “I found him by his website.” I said, “So what happened when you met him?” He goes, “I don’t know. I thought it was weird. I said to him, you are not the guy in the website.” He said, “Well that’s a picture I use.”

OSCAR:                      Are you kidding me?

SCOTT:                      I swear to you.

OSCAR:                      I am not even sure that’s legal.

SCOTT:                      I’m not sure.

OSCAR:                      Go ahead. So he uses a stock photo.

SCOTT:                      He uses a stock photo for himself and I decided to look this guy up on LinkedIn and the stock photo shows the guy maybe in his late 50s, gray hair, very distinguished.

OSCAR:                      That’s who I would pay.

SCOTT:                      Very Tim Cook like from Apple, very distinguished looking guy. So I go to LinkedIn and I looked this guy up. He can’t be more than like 32.

OSCAR:                      No experience.

SCOTT:                      A nebbish-looking guy in all honesty. He doesn’t look nearly as nice as the guy in the picture.

OSCAR:                      Would you expect an ugly guy?

SCOTT:                      The other thing too specifically to remark about his website is he failed to, in his bio, really give any information about where he went to school, when he graduated. So he was really trying to play the game of “Hey, you know, I’m somebody I’m not.” So I thought that was kind of odd.

OSCAR:                      There are a number of things that are wrong with it. Number one, what are the two things that we always talk about? Authenticity and value.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      So the guy strikes out on authenticity. I don’t know frankly how much less authentic you can be than not to use a picture of yourself. I commend them for his choice.

SCOTT:                      There are plenty of people, they don’t put any picture as they throw in a gavel. We know that’s not a good idea but hey, you do what you do. But to put a different picture of somebody, you know, on my criminal website, I have met with some actors and I have something that says “Hey, they are actors portraying clients.” That’s what it is. You can’t have a better looking you portray you on your website. You just can’t do it.

OSCAR:                      Well, listen. There was another lawyer who just got suspended because she went a different route. She was in entertainment practice. This person, someone came to me who was one of her former clients ended up writing a blog post about this. She Photoshopped herself with celebrities. So she was like, “Here I am with my client, George Clooney and his wife,” and she’s Photoshopped. And if you look through the 20 pictures that they put up, she’s wearing the same dress and is in the same pose in like four different pictures. So if you were to really spend the time, you say, “Wow, that was some event,” you know like president Obama was there and George Clooney and she struck the same pose and was in the same dress.

SCOTT:                      But she was an attorney.

OSCAR:                      She was an attorney.

SCOTT:                      And she was putting pictures of her and her clients.

OSCAR:                      No she was Photoshopping herself with celebrities, saying like, “Here I am with George Clooney at this event. I was honored to be ask to so and so.”

SCOTT:                      And she was putting it on her social media.

OSCAR:                      On her website.

SCOTT:                      That’s insane.

OSCAR:                      Right. The bottom line is, both of those people are wasting their time and money.

SCOTT:                      Completely.

OSCAR:                      That person comes in and look, he’s already you for a different reason. I don’t know what the reason is that they are you, but the fact remains the guy didn’t get it done, didn’t close the deal, he’s looking for somebody else. This factor, you know, is obviously going to be something that was in the client’s mind like “the guy is an actor. It’s not even a picture of him. What does that say about him? I would be interested in like how did he find the guy? Was it SEO that brought his website up or did somebody refer him?

SCOTT:                      He said he found him by his website. I don’t know if it was SEO or pay-per-click or whatever.

OSCAR:                      Right. The website did that as much for him.

SCOTT:                      It was probably pay-per-click because I don’t think his website came on the natural search.

OSCAR:                      But then think about that because this guy is doing a pay-per-click ad, he’s spending money and he needs to listen to this podcast more than anybody else. We should mail him, email him the link.

SCOTT:                      You know, it’s funny you say that. Just today, we can’t send them a letter because I sent them a letter stating that I was this guy’s new attorney and it just came back undeliverable. This guy may have more problems. Who knows.

OSCAR:                      Even the address is fake? Okay.

SCOTT:                      You know what, actually now that I think about it when I was looking him up, he had two different addresses. I picked one. I picked the one on his website. So the address he’s using on his website, he probably doesn’t even have an office there.

OSCAR:                      So here we go. And he probably spent money, whatever that money is, it’s out the window. I hope he licensed that image. You know how many cases we have of unlicensed photo images. He’s throwing his money out the window.

SCOTT:                      The guy had a tattoo that’s a trademark.

OSCAR:                      It’s really amazing to me that these two stories, these two individuals would think that would be a good idea, that this is how I’m going to develop business and I need to put up a picture.” No matter what, you can get a good picture of yourself. Do a little bit more from a distance if you’re not particularly attractive. Do it coming out of a courthouse. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. It’s important for people to know who they are dealing with. You have to come across as your authentic self and that is pretty sad.

SCOTT:                      Even today it happened. A client who I had never met came up to me used to, you know you’re sitting in a courthouse, you know, the client would call your name, you would call the client’s name. I’m sitting looking on my phone, this guy walks right up to me because he found me because of the website.

OSCAR:                      And he knows what you’re about, and knows he can rely on you to be there.

SCOTT:                      So really again, it’s all about being authentic. You can’t do anything.

OSCAR:                      That comes back to our first point as well by the way – this $25,000 a year person. A lot better to be working with somebody in the field of law at $25,000 a year than trying to somebody you’re not.

SCOTT:                      Learn, put the time in. Listen, nobody wants to put the time in sometimes but you have to. There’s no easy way out of law school anymore. There are just too many people not getting jobs.

OSCAR:                      And route A is still a better way to begin to develop your own practice. Because you know what, $25,000 is $25,000 is more than zero. At least it gives you some source and sometimes you got to swallow your pride.

SCOTT:                      But you’re making $25,000 and you keep networking, and you see if you can meet other people and who knows what it leads to. I guess it’s really better to be in the game then not at all, I guess.

OSCAR:                      At any level. I agree.

SCOTT:                      I’ll bring up one more thing. We talk on a lot of these podcasts. We’re very positive about networking and meeting people and the positives about relationship building. But you know every once in a while I think we are entitled to bitch about some things also. I’ve joined my local chamber of commerce and it’s working out okay. I’m not really 100% sure if my time is best spent there but I’m becoming involved. I’m trying to see what I can get out of it. But I went to an event the other night and I’m talking to this investment guy. He asks me what I do. I say, “Oh, I practice Special Education Law.” He says, “Oh, do you deal with trusts?” I said, “No, when children have disabilities, I try to help them get per…” He goes, “Right, but you know those special needs trust, you deal with those special needs trusts, right?”

OSCAR:                      Oh my God.

SCOTT:                      And I said, “No, I don’t do that. I just handle the education part of it. I refer that to other people.” He’s like, “Who do you refer those to?” “I got to go. I’m out of here. Goodbye.” I don’t understand what this guy was hoping. Maybe he was just trying to work through people and see what’s in it for me and move on to the people that can help him because that’s what he’s doing. God bless him.

OSCAR:                      He wasn’t listening.

SCOTT:                      Right but Lord knows there’s certainly the opportunity for me to be dealing with someone that has a special needs trust. This guy blew every opportunity and mind you, he was there and he had two other people from his firm there. I would never refer this guy something. I would never refer him something.

OSCAR:                      What was the nature of his business again?

SCOTT:                      He does investments. He wants to maintain somebody’s account and make a couple of dollars.

OSCAR:                      All he cared about was what you could give to him.

SCOTT:                      Exactly.

OSCAR:                      He didn’t think for a minute that it could start leading into something down the road.

SCOTT:                      No. It was “What’s in it for me?”

OSCAR:                      Immediacy first time he met you.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      Again, like this other people we’ve just been discussing needs to listen to the podcast because one of the things we always talk about is don’t expect that you’re going to meet a guy, “Hey, how are you? So when am I going to get business from you? What can you do for me by the way? My name is Scott Limmer.

SCOTT:                      Yeah right. How can you help me?

OSCAR:                      “Scott Limmer, how can you help me?” This guy right away from Jump Street is expecting. You have to put time and by the way, if you remember in one of our earlier podcasts, I did say Chamber of Commerce will work for you because when I went, it was all lawyers do what I do, doing business, trying to get those businesses to do it, and it was hard for me to find a niche. I’m still a member there. I still go to meetings but I didn’t find that as helpful as other associations I joined where there wasn’t such a direct connection. It’s almost reverse thinking if you think about it. It would make sense for me and I do get some work from those relationships with Chambers of Commerce but there’s a lot of us in that pool there and if you have a different niche, I think I would tell you, try and stick that out a little bit because you would be surprised.

SCOTT:                      Right. Just to go on a different topic quick, it’s weird for me networking lately because I’m trying to network for the Special Education Practice and trying to decide what makes the most sense and what I should spend my time on. Does the Chamber of Commerce makes sense or should I be networking at the Bar Association? It’s all a work in progress as I go.

OSCAR:                      Right and that’s how it’s going to have to be. When you do that, it is a combination of things that are directly applicable to your business and things where you might be the standout person because there’s going to be nobody else that does that. You’re going to have to find out what works best for you as you try these different things. It’s not going to happen overnight.

SCOTT:                      Yeah, exactly right.

OSCAR:                      It’s not going to happen if you have a picture of George Clooney. You know what, that’s what we should do. We should combine that website and just have a person say that the picture of George Clooney is them. That’s the real silly point.

SCOTT:                      There you go. Did you expect the George Clooney really come to court?

OSCAR:                      I’m going to hire this guy because he looks like George Clooney.

SCOTT:                      Perfect.

OSCAR:                      Anyway, those are some random thoughts for this podcast, I guess.

SCOTT:                      Yeah, I guess so. Just a couple of things, I guess it all makes sense when it comes around.

OSCAR:                      It all comes back to developing things based upon your true self, who you are.

SCOTT:                      Exactly, being authentic and just being out there in the world. Being yourself, being who you are, not being aggressive, not being fake, not being phony. It’s easy to find out things about people.

OSCAR:                      And be patient.

SCOTT:                      Be very patient.

OSCAR:                      All right, this is Oscar. You can reach me at Oscar@LawReboot.com.

SCOTT:                      This is Scott. You can reach me at Scott@LawReboot.com, phone number 516-900-4842. Feel free to leave us a message and thanks everyone. Have a good week.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot Your Law Practice with Oscar Michelen and Scott Limmer.

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